Court rejects new trial for dental malpractice claimant
Greg Komyathy, D.D.S., was performing a root canal on Lisa Francoeur when he drilled through the tooth, causing a perforation. He didn't recognize his error and allowed his assistant to blow high pressure air into the canal, causing a large subcutaneous air emphysema in her face and neck and extreme pain. Francoeur's expert claimed Komyathy's errors were a breach of the standard of care; Komyathy's expert claimed they were within the standard of care and a "known complication" that can occur without negligence.
The jury accepted Komyathy's expert's account of the incident and Francoeur was awarded no damages. The trial court concluded that this outcome was against "the great weight of the evidence" and awarded Francoeur a new trial. This conclusion was based on the judge's assessment of the testimony from both experts: he concluded that it was essentially agreed upon by both experts that proceeding to drill and inject high pressure air into the root canal without securing x-rays--after feeling a change in resistance--was a breach of the standard of care. Komyathy's attorneys appealed and the Court of Appeals reversed the trial judge, ordering the case dismissed. The higher court held that the trial judge's evaluation of the evidence did not give adequate deference to the jury's verdict, which the appellate court believed could be harmonized with the expert testimony.